In addition to all those Dolly Parton comparisons, Ashley Monroe’s connections to the country icon run deep. The Knoxville native grew up on fellow east Tennessean Parton’s music and when she was just 11 years old, she won a singing contest in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee — home of Dollywood. And along with their similarly ethereal vocal abilities and commitment to country music tradition, both proved at a very young age to have a songwriting prowess well beyond their years.
One Parton classic with lyrics that hit close to home (literally) for Monroe is “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” released 13 years before she was born. So the choice was easy when AT&T U-verse asked her to choose any Parton song to cover for its Country Deep “Women in Country” video series.
“I know the feeling she’s talking about when she singing that song — the peacefulness that goes along with being in east Tennessee when you’re sitting out on your front porch,” Monroe tells Rolling Stone Country. “I grew up in a log house that had rocking chairs and a swing, and ever since I was little I would go sit on the porch and just listen. . . It’s the craziest thing but I would listen to her voice and feel that lonesome feeling.”
Monroe finds both a kinship with and inspiration from the self-proclaimed “Backwoods Barbie.” “I was never as poor as her,” she says of Parton, “but being from east Tennessee, there’s just something that’s in that Appalachian blood. There’s something about growing up with the mountains around you. She still is that person. I have so much respect for her. She’s always done exactly what she wanted to do and didn’t really care what other people thought. She wants to act, she’ll act; if you want to get a big boob job, get a big boob job. She’s always done whatever she wants to make herself happy.”
Monroe also channels Parton on several tracks of The Blade, her new album released last week. Widely being hailed as one of the year’s best in country music, the new LP is currently Number One on iTunes. With its mix of deep-thinking, heartbreaking ballads and mood-enhancing uptempos, the project stays true to tradition, following suit with 2013’s Like a Rose, but with a bit more of a modern flair to its melodies and production this time around. Longtime friend and collaborator Vince Gill joins Justin Niebank as co-producers of the album.
Monroe will perform the album’s fast-paced, feel-good “Winning Streak” on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon tonight (July 27th).
In addition to opening for Rascal Flatts and Miranda Lambert on select dates this fall, Monroe will headline her own tour. With venues including New York’s Bowery Ballroom and Nashville’s City Winery, the Blade Tour will hit nine cities in October and November.
Ashley Monroe, the Blade Tour dates:
October 1st — Macon, Georgia at Cox Capitol Theatre
October 27th — New York City at Bowery Ballroom
October 29th — Washington, DC at Sixth & I
October 30th — Wilmington, Delaware at World Café Live
November 13th — Springfield, Illinois at Boondocks
November 14th — Chicago at Space
November 19th — Decatur, Georgia at Eddie’s Attic
November 20th — Nashville at City Winery
November 21st — Birmingham, Alabama at Workplay Theatre